By Andy Greene
Thanks to cryptic advertising revolving around various people coming back from the dead, ABC put Ressurection in a position of being loved or hated early on, thanks to its high-concept. The pilot, entitled “The Returned,” is compelling and offers promise, though its continued success depends on how fresh and intriguing the premise turns out to be, and how often we get answers to our questions. Ressurection is not to be confused with the critically acclaimed French zombie series The Returned (Les revenants). Instead, it’s based on the book The Returned by Jason Mott.
Ressurection opens on an 8 year old in tall grass, soaked, still. Then, GASP, he wakes up with a start, finding himself staring at a Yak on a farm in China. He wanders through the street vendors, before collapsing in front of a couple Chinese locals. Before he passes out, he asks if he’s dead, or was.
Marty (HOUSE’s Omar Epps) is so bored and brazen, that he’s throwing a racquetball off his office window repeatedly, shattering a photo of him and his (clearly) ex-girlfriend/wife in the process. Subtle. A call has come into Immigration about a kid, who needs to be chauffeured home, or to a foster home. Marty’s on the case, which is supposed to be a simple job. Ha.
The kid, Jacob (Landon Gimenez), hasn’t said a word since being found. They figure he’s been traumatized, speculating about child trafficking, or worse. Marty knows how to ingratiate himself with a kid: he gets him a burger and fries. We learn the kid’s from Arcadia, Missouri, or says he is. Marty calls in, asking if a kid named Jacob’s missing, and the sheriff gruffly hangs up, not in the mood. When Jacob intimates that he could direct him to his house when they get to Arcadia, Marty drives him there.
At his wonderfully suburban home we find a late middle age couple, played by Kurtwood Smith of THAT 70’s SHOW fame and UNFORGIVEN and TITANIC’s Frances Fisher (as Henry and Lucille, respectively). The two are quizzing each other on SAT verbal words, presumably never getting the chance to study them with their son. But they might have that chance in the future as Jacob arrives and hugs his father, merely 32 years after he drowned in a river, not having aged a day. The LOST music thankfully doesn’t play as we cut to commercial.
We soon learn that 32 years ago, the Sheriff’s wife (and Jacob’s aunt) Barbara also drowned in the river, attempting to save Jacob while out for a walk with her baby daughter Maggie. Of course, Jacob has a different version of the events: he was trying to save Barbara, not the other way around, and there was a mysterious man also there. We meet Maggie (Devin Kelley) all grown up, now a Doctor, and Sheriff Fred (Matt Craven), who’s clearly still not over his wife’s premature death all those years ago. Jacob’s best friend Tom Hale (Mark Hildreth) has grown up to be a Pastor, unable to come to terms with a miracle when he finally sees one with his own eyes.
This family isn’t the only one that dealt with death in their past: Elaine (THE O.C.’s Samaire Armstrong) and her brother Ray (Travis Young) lost their father years ago, forced to grow up without him. Let’s just say Jacob isn’t the only one coming back from the dead in Arcadia (is this another Chester’s Mill situation or are the resurrections more than localized?), and this episode primarily deals with Lucille, Henry, Fred, Tom and Maggie coming to various degrees of acceptance about Jacob’s return. What will be interesting is how their attitudes and the time change affect Jacob and other members of the Returned in the coming weeks.
The problem with a show like Ressurection, is that unless the cast is mind-blowingly talented and interesting (and after one episode, I doubt they’re that), that it won’t matter: the show’s quality depends on the greater mystery and how soon we uncover it, and whether we like the answers we find. So far, it appears like everything is too good to be true: people are coming back, exactly as they are, with the same memories, ready to live their life as they were supposed to before it was tragically cut short. But are they truly the same people? Are they clones? Aliens? Intelligent zombies? Is this an UNDER THE DOME crossover? Spirits? Or does their revival require a sacrifice? Does their arrival foretell certain doom? Because if ONCE UPON A TIME has taught me anything, magic comes with a price, and there’s some serious witchcraft going on.
At the very least, Ressurection has earned some rope with a strong and intriguing pilot, but we’ll see how long that leash lasts.
You can watch Ressurection on ABC, every Sunday at 9/8 pm.